Interesting case of a take-off clearance cancellation by the TWR operator that had observed an animal on the runway (January 7).
This is interesting because not every country attributes this responsibility to the controller, with the related obvious obligation to look out in order to identify the presence (also) of wildlife. Actually the Indian ATM manual states: ““In the event the aerodrome controller observes ... any obstruction .... such as animals or flock of birds…”
The word "observes"does not appear in the ATM manuals of other countries, nor even in the ICAO DOC 4444, which uses instead the more ambiguous term "becomes aware". India's regulation thus appears to be a commendable exercise of clarity for safety.
The American NTSB released the factual report regarding the accident suffered by a Southwest B737 on 23.12.2013. The right engine ingested a number of Mallard Ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) and suffered an uncontained engine failure; there was evidence that a piece of high-speed debris had exited the engine through the outboard fan cowl near the fan plane.
Despite the closure of the Scarpino landfill, the problem of gulls at Genoa airport seems to persist. The November 5 event is similar to others of the past: a flock of gulls settled on the runway suddenly flew up in front of the taking-off aircraft. The most impressive precedent dates back to June 7, 1989, and gave rise to a long sequel of civil proceedings for compensation of the damage suffered by a TNT Bae 146.
In similar circumstances, it was less fortunate and suffered multiple impacts that led to the loss of an engine and the shutdown of two others immediately after the emergency landing. In 1997, however, it was the turn of an Antonov 124 to suffer the same fate but in the trial that followed the defendants managed to prove that the flock of seagulls were not settling on the runway but crossed it at low altitude in an unforeseen and unpredictable way. Despite these two famous court cases, once again we read about flocks of gulls settling on the ground near the runway without anyone, not the bird control, nor the Tower, nor anybody else, seeing and dispersing them.
The Indian Authority AAIB released the final report (http://dgca.gov.in/accident/reports/VT-SUC.pdf) regarding the investigation on the accident occurred on 4.12.2015 to the aircraft Bombardier Q 400 at the airport of Jabalpur.
During the night landing the aircraft hit a number of wild boars that had entered in the airport and were crossing the runway. The investigation highlighted several breaches in the perimeter wall as well as poor maintenance.
The Australian Authority released the final report (http://www.atsb.gov.au/media/5773811/ao-2015-007_final.pdf ) further to the investigation regarding the event of Jan 9 2015, occurred to a SAAB 340 aircraft on Moruya airport. After the landing, a flock of “galhas” took off from the grass west of the runway and impacted the aircraft. The crew carried out a visual examination but did not identify any damage. However, after the next flight the crew observed that the tip of one of the left propeller blades had detached.
Recently, has been brought to our attention the story of a Polish passenger who complained about the delay of her flight asking for the financial compensation as provided for by the European legislation. The airline claimed that the compensation was not due because the delay was caused by a bird strike, which constitutes an "extraordinary circumstance" that exonerates it from liability, as recently established by a sentence of the European Court of Justice
However, the passenger did not believe in the official version and did not lose heart. She therefore invoked the provision of the art. 5 para. 3 of the European Regulation 261/2004 which lays down an obligation for the carrier to prove the actual occurrence of the extraordinary circumstance, a bird strike in this case. Nothing’s that simple, because it would be enough to produce a copy of the bird strike reporting form that, at least in Europe, all carriers must fill to report the event to the Authority.
But this is where the problems start because the airline objected that such information should be considered confidential, and so did the competent authorities the passenger has so far addressed. To be honest, they do not deny that eventually an answer could be given but only at the end of long drawn-out procedures and at the discretion of the authority itself that might even refuse.
A first general consideration concerns the alleged extraordinariness of these events that frankly appears incomprehensible even by looking at public statistics, including ours. Bird strikes are, on the contrary, daily events and a delay due to these is the norm. Evidently, judges do not speak the same language used in aviation. And that would not be a novelty.
A second reflection concerns the protection of the passenger’s rights: opposing to those the protection of the airline privacy is even more incomprehensible because we really do not understand what is the good to be protected. A collision with a bird is not a shame to hide, nor an issue that concerns only certain areas or airports. It is a phenomenon unfortunately widely spread and affecting everyone.
It is therefore legitimate to suspect that, under the pretext of the privacy protection, some airlines hide behind the "extraordinary circumstance" other reasons of delay, this time dependent on the airline itself, which would instead result in financial compensation. In other words, to save money on the back of passengers. And this was certainly not the will of the European legislator or, we believe, of the Court of Justice. A well-known Italian politician once said that thinking the worst of someone is a sin, but most of the time you are spot on.
It’s time to begin fixing all this.
The European Agency for the Aviation Safety (EASA) recently proposed to amend the CS-E (certification specifications for engines) to require the applicant to demonstrate the ability of a turbine engine to cope with the ingestion of a medium flocking bird into the engine core and solicited comments on this issue. Cpt. Paul Eschenfelder and Dr. Valter Battistoni (owner and manager of this website) submitted to EASA their observations.
In our view, the most relevant event of the quarter was not the loss of an aircraft with the injuring of some crew members (July 29, at Sao Tomé) due to a dual bird ingestion into both engines, but rather what took place in Stuttgart on August 13.
An Airbus A319 was accelerating for take-off when the left engine ingested a bird (probably a heron) that caused serious damage to all fan blades. Fragments of these blades accelerated forward impacting the engine inlet as well as the slats/flaps and forward fuselage. Fragments also bounced up from the runway to the right hand side and were ingested by the right hand engine resulting in fan blade damage of the right hand engine, too.
The left engine inlet received several punctures, the fan case, slats/flaps and forward fuselage several dents.
The takeoffwas interrupted at high speed after about a 2000 mt. run.
Why do we consider this event more relevant than the other, which even resulted in afinancial irreparable damage?
Firstly, because the German authorities oddly did not open an investigation, that in this case is importantnot only in order to find out the causes, but above all for the safety recommendations that could arise from it. The consideration that the damaged parts were rotable components, engines or parts of them, moreover because of a bird, probably led to a lesser attention. In case of a mechanical failure, for example, their reaction would probably have been different. Once again, it is necessary to point out that also aeronautical investigators (and regulators) need to be properly trained to understand that there is a wide scope of action in the wildlife arena.
Secondly, because it is now incontrovertible that a single bird ingestion may cause the failure of both engines at take-off (not important that it actually not happened, because as a matter of fact all the conditions were present).
Thirdly because the risk was very high. The left engine had a total power loss; it is not possible to ascertain what damage suffered the right one, but the ingestion of metallic parts leads to believe that it was serious enough to compromise the take-off and the subsequent emergency landing.
Moreover, this event will not be classified as a dual bird ingestion, as for the aviation statisticians the damage to the right engine was a consequence of the unique bird ingestion into the left. This may satisfy the statistics but not the people involved in safety, especially if the event is observed in the viewpoint of the SMS (Safety Management System).
Last December (2016, and let us apologize for the delay in reporting), ENAC issued a paper for aircrews on the risk of impact with wildlife. We warmly welcome the long-awaited initiative that fills a gap in the pilot's professional training. Maybe not all the line pilots, but surely all the thousands of general aviation pilots (and not only).
In this regard, we would like to emphasize some of the fundamental recommendations in the document, which we believe are "revolutionary" in a positive way, times being what they are:
Apart from this, the ENAC document represents a major step forward in involving other stakeholders in preventing impacts with wildlife.
The Bird Strike Committee Italy, a branch of ENAC, published the 2016 report (in Italian) on wildlife strikes. Let us suggest to read the whole document while, as usual, we propose our observations and comments that can be downloaded here (a short summary in English).
The Italian Agency for Flight Safety (ANSV) recently published its 2016 report on the civil aviation safety. In contrast to the past years, when at least few lines were dedicated to the issue, this year the matter completely disappeared from the report, with the exception of a short note regarding the number of bird strike reports to be taken into consideration: “ANSV decided to consider only reports that regard actual damage to aircraft”.
In a recent trial, the European Court declared that "a collision between an aircraft and a bird is an extraordinary circumstance". Therefore, airlines can reject claims for compensation from passengers, as stated in the Reg. EC 261, in case of delay or flight cancellation. The verdict obviously was welcome by European airlines that have seen recognized their right not to be responsible for events that occur beyond their control; it left instead disappointed many Consumers’ Associations that are managing pending compensation requests for millions of Euros. If it is true that in so many cases a bird strike cannot be avoided by an aircraft (therefore without fault or responsibility), it is true as well that many bird strikes can be prevented by the adoption of proper measures by other subjects (i.e. airport operators and others). In conclusion, we think that a new damage compensation system is needed, fast and certain like that provided by the EC261, also at the expense of other entities.
On May 2017 ENAC released its 2016 Corporate Annual Report:
Inside the report, a page (pag. 109) has been dedicated to the Wildlife Strikes. It does not contain novelties, apart from a preview of the 2016 strike data, not definitive yet. The text recalls more or left the same concepts and the same information of the past years, but at least it shows the ENAC will to consider the problem of wildlife strike as important and still existing, differently from other important entities that completely omitted even to mention it (see below the controversial choice of ANSV).
From 2012 to 2016 EASA received from the 27 joint countries 13.003 reports of bird/wildlife strikes, with 2 events of serious incidents, with regard to commercial air transport aeroplanes. For further details, please download the report at the link below:
Kenya's AAID (Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation) released their final report on the accident occurred to the aircraft Fokker 50 5Y-SIB on 4 January 2015. The left hand main gear did not extend and lock in the down position due to the impact with two birds that disabled proper functioning of the mechanical system that controls the opening and closing the door to the left main landing gear (MLG). The crew then decided to perform a belly landing (with all gear up) and landed the aircraft. No injuries occurred but the aircraft suffered substantial damage.
The AAID also released several interesting recommendations we may agree with, but did not mention the crucial point, in our opinion, regarding the need of a better shielding of the landing gear apparatus in case of bird strikes. The topic has been recently discussed during the WBA meeting in Amsterdam on December 2016.
The meeting took place in Montreal from 15 to 18 May 2017 and was organized by ICAO and ACI (Airports Council International). The following is the link to download the several presentations:
Our comments on this important conference can be released in the near future.
The European Union is funding a project (LIFE14 NAT / IT / 000484) which has as main objective the improvement of the state of conservation of the Griffon vulture in Sardinia. The project includes, among other issues, the creation of a network of so-called "farmers carnia" to mitigate the food shortage and the release of 60 Griffons from Spain to resolve the critical demographic situation of the existing population.
“Farmers carnia" (i.e. charnel-houses) are equipped sites where the farmers are allowed and encouraged to leave livestock carcasses in selected areas where Griffons live. The carcasses will provide food for the Griffons that therefore can feed themselves, as once happened in nature. Furthermore, there will be two additional and similar “feeding stations” to integrate the network of the “farmers carnia”.
The project includes the following Special Protection Areas (SPA) and Sites of Community Importance (SIC): ZONES SPA: ITB013044 - Capo Caccia: its inner area, known as the "Arca (Ark)", is a permanent wildlife protection oasis (L.R. 23/98), while the coastline is part of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) of Capo Caccia and Punta Giglio (L. 979/82). That is a permanent oasis of wildlife protection and capture. The area falls within the Porto Conte Regional Park (L.R. 31/89) and it is considered one of the most important breeding sites for the Gyps fulvus and the Hydrobates pelagicus.
ZONES SIC: ITB010042 - Capo Caccia (with the islands Foradada and Piana) and Punta del Giglio - ITB011155 - Lake Baratz, Porto Ferro: the only natural lake in Sardinia, fed only by the catch basin that surrounds it. Geologically the area consists of formations of sedimentary rocks, mainly sandstones and sands, and metamorphic rocks of schist type.
Pending the entry into operation of the “farmers carnia”, one of the feeding stations has been located in Marina di Lioneddu (Porto Conte).
So far, that is what we can read in the project website called "Life Under Griffon Wings"
Due to some unfortunate circumstances, the project designers, and many of the entities in charge of controlling and authorizing it, must have neglected the fact that all the areas described above are located within a 13 km. radius from the civil airport of Alghero.
The distance of 13 km. has been set as a limit, under the national (Civil Aviation Authority) and international (ICAO) regulation, in order to avoid the settlement of attractive sources for wildlife, considered as potential hazards to air navigation (Cod.Nav. art. 711). In fact, the local airport Authority years ago delivered to the Municipality of Alghero, within whose boundaries both the airport and the project areas fall, the so-called constraint maps (Art. 707 C.N.), i.e. the territorial boundaries within which wildlife potential attractive sources are in general not allowed.
At least one of the feeding stations is therefore already existing and active within a radius of 13 km. from the airport, while the others (“farmers carnia”) will be completed as soon as the authorization process will end.
What could be the impact on air navigation safety resulting from a population of more than 60 Griffons hovering above two feeding stations within a zone which should be immune from attractions sources?
The Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) has a wingspan of 2.5 m. and can weigh up to 12 kilos. It can fly up to 6,000 m. (about 20,000 ft.). Griffons can form separate colonies and are quite loyal to their permanent locations. Usually they move in flocks of several individuals. With a network of feeding stations and “farmers carnia”, it is very likely that the flocks will move from one to another inevitably crossing the take-off and landing paths of Alghero airport.
In Spain, where about 8,000 pairs of Griffons live, statistics show many collisions with military aircraft that often carry out missions at low altitude (certainly more than 14 events from 1987 to 1991- Kitowsky 2011), but also with civil aircraft, causing several casualties among pilots and passengers of small general aviation airplanes.
The following are the updated data of the latest impacts, as reported by the media:
18.07.1996, Pamplona, Robin DR380, crashed after colliding with a Griffon vulture, 3 dead;
13.05.2012, Madrid, Iberia A340, struck a vulture that remained embedded in the nose cone;
16.01.2016, Cerro de las Rabadanes, TB20, struck a vulture, 4 dead;
30.03.2016, Perales, Cessna 172, collided with a vulture, 3 dead;
19.05.2016, Arbizu, Robin DR400, collided with a vulture, 3 dead;
16.09.2016, Palma de Mallorca, Lufthansa A320, struck a vulture that remained embedded in the nose cone;
We think no additional comment is needed.
If no expert will ever support the feasibility of a “zero hazard” with regard to the impacts of aircraft with birds, we really do not feel any need to increase the hazard level if we can easily do without. We hope, therefore, that the project managers would reconsider the location of such attractions sources and restocking, maybe moving them to areas less critical for air navigation.
Finally, we would like to mention a similar experiment underway in India (although for different needs and in a different context) in which however the feeding stations have been located at 100 km. from the nearest airport: